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Chemical Emergencies

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Chemical Emergencies


What is a chemical emergency?
A chemical emergency occurs whenever hazardous materials, liquids, or gases are released into the environment. Chemical emergencies may result from fires or structural failure at chemical storage facilities; accidents involving vehicles transporting chemicals; intentional release of chemicals as waste or terrorism; or other situations.

What should I do if I see or suspect a chemical emergency?
Should you see or suspect a hazardous spill, call the 911 Control Center. The Roanoke Valley Emergency Planning Committee has a planned procedure for handling these incidents. Trained and certified public safety professionals will be dispatched immediately to assess the incident and to take the proper precautions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community.

How will I be alerted to a chemical emergency?
In the event of such an emergency with a potential threat to the public, public safety officials will give you protective action instructions and keep you informed by frequent announcements over the TV and radio Emergency Alert System (EAS) - formerly EBS. Use of loudspeakers and door-to-door notifications will be made by public safety personnel if necessary.

What should I do if I am instructed to evacuate?
  • Turn off lights and appliances.
  • Take only items you need most such as medicine and personal items, supplies for infants and children, sleeping bags, pillows and blankets.
  • Offer a ride to a neighbor.
  • Lock your doors and windows.
  • Continue to listen to your radio for further instructions.
  • Proceed to designated shelter.

What should I do if I am instructed to shelter in-place?

During a release of toxic chemicals or other emergencies where air quality is threatened, in-place sheltering keeps you inside a building and out of danger. In-place sheltering simply means staying inside the building in which you are presently located, whether it's your home, business or other facility, or seeking shelter at the nearest available building.

As soon as you are aware that an emergency situation exists in your area:
  • Turn on your television or radio for further information. Local officials will relay emergency action steps to the media on a continual basis until the crisis is over.
  • Do not leave your home (other building) until you receive official notification that the danger has passed.

In Your Home:
  • Close and lock all doors and windows to the outside. Windows seal better when locked. Seal any obvious gaps around windows and doors with tape or other materials.
  • Bring outdoor pets inside, if possible.
  • Turn off all heating systems, air conditioners and switch inlets to the "closed" position. Seal any gaps around window-type air conditioners with tape and plastic sheeting or other suitable material.
  • Turn off exhaust fans in kitchens, bathrooms and any other spaces. Use tape or other materials to cover and seal exhaust fans, grilles, range vents, dryer vents and other openings to the outside.
  • Close all fireplace dampers and seal all openings with tape and plastic sheeting or other suitable material.
  • Close as many internal doors as possible.
  • Close drapes, curtains or shades to protect yourself against any possible explosion from outside. Stay away from external windows to prevent possible injury from flying glass.
  • If vapors begin to bother you, hold a wet cloth over your nose and mouth. You may go into the bathroom, close the door and turn on the shower to wash the air for a higher degree of protection.
  • Do not worry about running out of air to breathe as this is very unlikely in normal homes and buildings.

In Your Workplace

In addition to the directions listed above, you should...
  • Ensure that all ventilation systems are set to 100 percent recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the structure. Where this is not possible, ventilation systems should be turned off.
  • Minimize the use of elevators. Elevators ten to "pump" outdoor air in and out of a building as they travel up and down.

What happens to children in school during a chemical emergency?
Public safety officials will advise school authorities as to the protective action to be taken. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) will be used to advise you of the actions being taken to protect school children. Do not go to your child's school during a chemical emergency; follow all emergency instructions or evacuation orders immediately.